English Language Blog

Silent Letters in English Posted by on Jun 10, 2021 in English Language

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Ask anyone what makes learning English so difficult, and many will tell you it’s because the words are very hard to spell. Many English words don’t sound anything at all like the way they are pronounced, mainly because English has so many silent letters. There are also many words with combined double consonants, such as commode, or letter. In a way, that second letter is silent. Previously, we discussed the silent E and the history of silent letters in English. Now it’s time to look at some of the most difficult words in the language to spell and how to pronounce them.

Let’s begin with some words with silent letters at the very beginning of the word. There are quite a few, but these are among the most common.

  • Aisle – I-əl. A passage where people walk, especially between seats.
  • Gnarly – Närlē. Twisted out of shape or ugly.
  • Heir – Air. A person who will inherit something.
  • Honest – On-est. Truthful.
  • Knife – Nahyf. A tool or instrument for cutting
  • Knob – Nawb. A handle on a door or drawer used for opening.
  • Psychology – Sīˈkäləjē. The science of human behavior.
  • Wrap – Rap. To cover something, usually with paper.

The letter B is usually silent when following an M, but that’s not the only time it’s silent.

  • Bomb – Bom. An explosive.
  • Debt – Det. Something that is owed, or has come due.
  • Comb – Kōm. Used to arrange and style hair.
  • Lamb – Lam. An adorable animal, often paired with mint jelly.

There are many words with a silent C, especially if preceded by an S.

  • Ascend – əˈsend. To go up something.
  • Fascinate – Fasəˌnāt. To draw the attention and interest of someone or something.
  • Muscle – Muh səl. Physical strength and power.
  • Obscene – əbˈsēn. Offensive on moral principles to a majority.
  • Scent – Sent. Fragrance or odor.

As with B, if you see the letter N following an M, it’s going to be silent.

  • Column – Käləm. A pillar.
  • Damn – Dam. A curse word. It is said multiple times before the song “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” in My Fair Lady.
  • Solemn – Säləm. Formal and dignified.

The silent G is both maddening and common.

  • Assignment – əˈsīnmənt. A task or job that was given to someone.
  • Light – LYT. It’s probably the first English word you misspelled.
  • Foreign – Fôrən. Something about a country or language not your own.
  • Paradigm – Perəˌdīm. A pattern of something, typical of something.

The silent T fools most English learners, especially when preceded by an S.

  • Bristle – Brisəl. A stiff, thin hair, such as on a brush.
  • Hustle – Husəl. To hurry or push forcefully.
  • Listen – Lis(ə)n. To hear something (but not a silent letter).

What silent letter is the most difficult for you to deal with? Please let me know in the Comment box below.

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About the Author: Gary Locke

Gary is a semi-professional hyphenate.


  1. Pauline Woods:

    Its always baffled me as to why is it necessary when writing anything with the letter Q in it does it always have to be followed by a U. When the letter Q makes the souno) Q (kw) anyway with out a U following it. Why not just Qeen Qeried Qiet Reqire Vanqish.